Killer Content Marketing From Top of Funnel to Conversion

Content marketing requires a bit of a balance these days. On the one hand, we are all inundated with content, not all of it terribly useful, so we have to be sure what we publish is of the highest quality.

And the competitive landscape is beyond crowded, so the temptation to publish content on a wide range of topics should be resisted. It’s more productive to find a niche and own it.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stretch our content marketing muscles in other ways. Most importantly, we should be creating content that appeals to our target audience at all stages of their buying process. Here are some ideas for media and formats that will help keep prospects engaged from the “getting to know you” stage straight through client on boarding.

Content That Says, “Hello”

As someone begins to search for a solution to a problem their business is experiencing, their view is from the proverbial 30,000 feet. Details are less important than broad strokes and simple presentation of what is possible.

Content most appealing to buyers at this stage will include infographics, which tend to pack a lot of high-level data and information into a very digestible format; general overview articles, which can help orient a prospect who is still learning about her options, and explainer videos that are similar to infographics and overview articles in their broad view and quick consumption.

Each of these should hint at the additional information that’s worth exploring, the submerged part of the iceberg, and should include or be presented with calls to action that help drive the prospect toward the next stage of the buying process and the additional content you have ready for them.

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

As they move through their buying process, prospects will want to know more about you, but first they’ll want to know more about the solutions they are exploring. Case studies, case stories, and similar accounts of the experience others have had lead the way here.

Webinars that include similar content are also quite effective, particularly as prospects move further through the middle of the funnel. (There has to be some level of interest already in place for a prospect to commit 30, 60, or 90 minutes to a webinar, even if they will be multitasking.)

Video can be a great tool here, as well. Interviews with clients who were facing a similar issue to the prospect not only cover much of the same ground as more traditional case studies but also provide a window into what it is like to work with you.

The Background Check

As prospects move closer to a decision, they want the quantitative data that backs up the qualitative decision they’re leaning toward. The specifics of your solution need to lead the way here, whether that’s technical data or statistics about the overall effectiveness of the solution you’re offering versus other options available in the market.

Prospects here are willing to invest more time — in fact, most will want to before they’re comfortable committing budget and time to a solution — so this is an exception to the rule that nobody reads online, they only skim.

That’s not to say that content here should take the form of dry analysis broken up only with charts and graphs. Layout and presentation still matter, and media like video can still be incredibly effective. Just be sure to offer the accompanying data — like those charts and graphs — in a more easily sharable format since this is the stage where your buyers may be presenting their recommendation to a broader team more interested in quick hits than a deep dive.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will satisfy every prospect in your funnel, so metrics and analytics should be in place to measure content consumption and timelines. Be sure you’re also reviewing content consumption to see if you have any weak spots in your funnel. Shore up any areas where content seems not to be holding your audience’s attention.

Is Digital Marketing Something You Can DIY?

This past weekend, the ringing I heard wasn’t in my ears. It was the transmitter for our Invisible Fence beeping away in the basement, telling me that something was wrong with the fence.

Being handy — and cheap — I asked everybody’s favorite search engine what the beeping meant and got to work testing the possibilities. Half an hour later, I had my answer. There was a break in the wire running around the perimeter of our property.

And that’s where my handy-ness ended. I called the pros to come out with their specialized radio receiver equipment to find the break and make the fix. They made the fix far faster than I could have, but I was able to save money eliminating all of the other possibilities.

Why should you care about my dog fence? Because you should adopt the same approach to your marketing. Here’s why.

There are, of course, lots of different ways you can market your products and services. All will fall into one of three main buckets.

  1. DIY
  2. DFY (Done for You)
  3. Collaboration

DIY Marketing for B2B Businesses

The DIY approach is going to save you money in the short term but likely cost you in lost opportunities.

You miss out by not spending your time more wisely and you miss out because, unless you have expertise in a range of marketing disciplines, your marketing work isn’t going to be as good as a pro’s. (How often do you build a website? Or create a content marketing strategy? Do you really think you can do it better than a pro?)

Unless you have a depth of knowledge going into the process and the time to stay current on the latest techniques, a strictly DIY approach is going to cost you money.

DFY – Done For You Marketing for B2B Businesses

The DFY approach eliminates those problems, but introduces others.

The experts you engage will have deep knowledge of their domains and will know the latest developments across their marketing disciplines. What they’ll lack is the institutional knowledge of your business. So, there will be a learning period during which results may lag, but as they come to know your business your marketing results will be stronger than you’re likely to get via the DIY path.

This may be the route to go if you simply don’t have the bandwidth to participate more fully in your marketing, as might be the case during periods of rapid growth.

The Collaborative B2B Marketing Approach

Better than either of these options is the collaborative approach to digital marketing. It marries the best of both worlds: You provide your deep knowledge of your business, your customers, and your market; your marketing experts bring their experience and perspective.

This is true whether those experts are outside consultants or team members you add to your staff. In either case, the marketing team must be collaborating with all departments within your organization in order to succeed.

Marketing can’t happen in a vacuum. It must feed on — and have an impact on — the conversations occurring between your sales team and prospects, between your customer service teams and your clients, and within your product development teams.

Who Does What on the Marketing Team?

Be careful about hiring a strategist. You definitely need a solid strategy, but you also need a clear plan for implementing that strategy and the resources to follow through on that plan. At the very least, a strategist needs to visit your front line team down in the trenches on a regular basis.

There are exceptions to these rules of thumb and you have to tailor your approach to you firm’s needs. Just be sure you have someone leading the team who can guide you through all available options and possibilities, move you back and forth between initiatives as needs dictate, and who can help you integrate marketing into sales team activity and other initiatives.

How COVID-19 Is Changing B2B Marketing

The global pandemic continues to affect every area of our lives and our businesses. To discuss what should be top of mind for marketers, Ruth Stevens talked with Roger McDonald, a seasoned sales and marketing executive to gather his views on what’s going on with B2B marketing and offer insights.

The global pandemic continues to affect every area of our lives and our businesses today. I reached out to my longtime colleague and friend Roger McDonald, a seasoned sales and marketing executive and thoughtful observer of things related to B2B marketing, to gather up his views on what’s going on, and how B2B marketers should be thinking.

How do you see COVID-19 changing the nature of B2B sales and marketing going forward?

I see it as another in a long line of disruptions in the buying and selling process. COVID-19 is a shock to the system. Such disruptions are fertile ground for innovation.

This one is unusual because it affects aspects of the business that marketing does not always touch. We must ask ourselves, “What is this crisis communicating to my customers and stakeholders? And what are my behaviors saying?”

This is a good time for what I call an “everything communicates” audit.

What’s that? 

Like a marketing audit, but recognizing that there is a message in everything a company does. So, you examine not just the product, or features, or messaging, or value proposition. You look at every customer touchpoint, to ensure consistency and excellence. With the pandemic, the customer will be judging you on different criteria. Is your supply chain flawless? If you’ve had a breakdown in delivery, how have you communicated that to your customers? Do your customer-facing employees practice good hygiene?

Where is there an opportunity to innovate in a crisis like this?

If you can innovate through the crisis, and show customers superior performance, it will have a lasting effect on the customer relationship. Of paramount importance is how you make them feel when they are struggling.

Much of it comes down to speed and agility, and the ability to change how you interact with existing customers. Consider this: One of my clients reorganized — in just 48 hours — the way they deliver customer service. They set up a service system combining virtual and on-site processes, which reduced service call times from nearly 2 hours to 28 minutes. More importantly, the new system addressed their customer’s desire to reduce non-essential physical contact.

How has the role of marketing changed?

The roles of both sales and marketing have been changing for a while. COVID-19 is just the latest iteration.

B2B sales was historically a matter of face to face, physical contact. The past 30 years have seen enormous change, what with building security concerns in the 1970s, and then with 9/11.

Technology accelerated the change, with databases, email, social networks, digital advertising, online RFP price bid systems, all dramatically impacting the nature of customer engagement — and increasing the importance of marketing and IT. Marketing is no longer just about advertising, brand, and leads. It is involved in every stage of the customer relationship.

So, where is this heading? 

As you see, there had already been major change in recent decades. I believe COVID-19 will drive further change. We already see upticks in virtual engagement, AI-driven programs for both lead generation and point-of-contact engagement. Will the sales person function disappear?  Or will sales people morph into project managers? No matter what, it’s easy to see sales people moving from two-to-three sales calls to more like four-to-seven productive calls a day.

Here are some other examples:

  • Benefits statements and value propositions will have new or altered components. Think supply chain security and business continuity programs.
  • In your interview with Steve Gershik, he discussed the “funnel beyond the funnel,” which he described as “the systems, processes and technologies to drive value” once a customer has moved to the buying stage. This is exactly why Covid-19 has spawned the phrase: “Retention is the new acquisition.”
  • We are now full circle back to Peter Drucker’s famous words: “Business has only two functions, marketing and innovation. These produce revenues. All others are costs.” As we know, most B2B companies still look at marketing as an expense that “might” produce revenue. Perhaps we are at a tipping point where senior management will move beyond metrics of lead generation, to nurture marketing’s evolving role as organizer of systems, IT initiatives, and sales person engagement for both acquisition and retention. I recommend  “Beyond Advertising,” which in 2016 envisioned a new role of CMO in an agile and innovative organization. Marketing will have a wider span of influence.

Any last words, Roger?

Don’t ask whether we will ever get back to normal. Innovation drives forward motion. Ramp up your virtual relationships. Grab the opportunity to change your practices, your processes and your metrics.  Instead of setting quotas around topline revenue, look at retention metrics. Change the compensation system. Develop new infrastructure. Maybe you need new leadership.

Wow, great food for thought — and action — for B2B marketers!  Thank you, Roger.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

 

 

 

 

Must-Attend B2B Marketing Conferences for 2020: COVID-19 Update

The conference and event business has been turned upside down, so my annual post covering the must-attend B2B marketing conferences of 2020 is due for a refresh.

The conference and event business has been turned upside down, so my annual post covering the must-attend B2B marketing conferences of 2020 is due for a refresh. No surprise, some events have been canceled, but I am pleased that some organizers have pivoted quickly, creating virtual events that will allow us to learn, keep in touch, and stay up to date in our field of B2B marketing. Kudos to them! Let’s show our support by attending.

Marketing Conferences Converted to Virtual

May 27-28: B2B Marketing Ignite USA 2020 — UK’s B2B Marketing.net had planned to bring its successful annual conference to our shores, specifically to Chicago, but now the event is virtual. If you’re not already a member of their US online community, I suggest you sign up.

May 28: Marketing Leaders Forum APAC — For B2B marketers in Asia. Free to those registered for the October in-person events, and now turned virtual.

Marketing Conferences Operating as Expected, for Now

These organizers are holding out hope that marketers will be able to convene face-to-face sometime later in the year. As the time approaches, they may make the decision to postpone, cancel, or go virtual. Keep an eye on their websites.

Aug. 10-12, Boston, B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange — A fruitful merger of three smaller B2B conferences, DemandGen Summit,  FlipMyFunnel and REVTalks, launched in 2019.

Sept. 29-Oct. 1, Chicago, B2BNext — All about B2B e-commerce business and strategy, co-founded by Andy Hoar, formerly Forrester’s top analyst in the category.

Oct. 4-6, Scottsdale, ANA BMA Masters of Marketing Conference — The ANA is moving its reincarnated BMA conference to Scottsdate from Chicago this year. Dates have shifted from May to October.

Oct. 7-8, Singapore, B2B Marketing Leaders Forum Asia 2020 — THE Asian event for B2B marketers. The Sydney event is postponed to Oct. 26-27. Melbourne event, Nov. 19.

Oct. 7-8, Chicago, Reach 2020 — Launched in 2019 by G2Crowd, this one-day conference is all about getting the most value from B2B ratings and reviews sites.

Oct.7-9, San Diego, Digital Transformation Connect — For senior execs in B2B companies, a place for meetings and networking with a customized list of peers and vendors. Attendees must qualify to be invited, by filling out the Contact Us form.

Oct. 13-16, Cleveland, Content Marketing World — Still growing, still thriving.

Nov. 3-6, San Francisco. MarketingProfs B2B Forum — Especially hoping that this operates, as I am delivering a one-day workshop on B2B marketing strategy and planning on Nov. 3, with Allen Weiss.

Nov. 5-7, Carlsbad CA, Seismic Shift — All about sales enablement, an important topic.

Canceled Events

Sept. 16-18, Boston, Connect to Convert — A division of the giant LeadsCon, with a solid B2B marketing track.  Will run again in 2021.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

6 Steps to E-commerce Success in B2B Seller Marketplaces

Amazon Business is expected to reach $52 billion in sales by 2023; Alibaba and eBay are also competing actively in the B2B space. But these e-commerce giants are only part of the story. How should B2B marketers get in on the action? Read on.

Amazon Business is expected to reach $52 billion in sales by 2023, and is growing faster than its consumer side. Alibaba and eBay are also competing actively in the B2B space. But these e-commerce  giants are only part of the story. Complex categories like oil and gas, chemicals, aviation and manufacturing are taking expense out of their selling processes by setting up industry-specific marketplaces. So how should B2B marketers get in on the action? Read on.

As buyers worldwide become increasingly comfortable with “remote buying,” this is the perfect time for B2B sellers to find ways to use e-commerce to improve their customers’ buying experience, eliminate costs from the selling process, and find new markets.

How to make sense of this all? Here’s a six-step e-commerce process to follow.

1. Develop a Strategic Approach

This is as much a distribution question as it is marketing question, so engage your entire go-to-market team to develop a strategy. Get started by asking these key questions:

  • What areas of our product line are suited to e-commerce? In B2B, the answer usually begins with the aftermarket, like parts.
  • How can we leverage e-commerce without causing strife in our existing distribution channel relationships?
  • Are there elements of our current selling process that could benefit from digital automation? The first step in B2B was e-procurement and EDI. Where else can we find opportunity for speed and savings?

Review Your Options

The landscape of existing B2B seller marketplace options is already well populated.  See what your competitors may be doing on the majors.  Then look at activity in your industry as a whole.  In aerospace, it’s ePlane and Honeywell’s multivendor platform GoDirect Trade. In chemicals, it’s CheMondis, launched in Europe to serve the global market. Manufacturers use Asseta for semiconductor parts.

Keep Close to Your Customers

Listen to how they want to buy from you. Especially your key accounts. You’ll find them your best source for actionable ideas for your digital transformation.

Revise Your Marketing Communications

Selling on marketplaces means a different approach from traditional lead generation and sales enablement, in two ways, explains Liz Brohan, co-CEO of CBD Marketing in Chicago.

First, it’s a direct selling environment, so you’ll need product images, videos, descriptive copy, and the keywords most relevant to buyers. This means giving up a certain amount of control, as your selling materials will have to comply with standards set by the marketplace.

Second, you’ll be on the same platform with your direct competitors, so focus on how to stand out and how to differentiate. This may be through thought leadership content, top quality video, and keen attention to your pricing. “On marketplaces, B2B marketers need to think about building brand awareness, almost like a CPG company,” says Brohan.

Ramp Up Your Own E-commerce

Most B2B companies expect e-commerce to comprise 40% of their topline revenue by 2025, according to Digital Commerce 360. Opportunity is everywhere. Not just parts and aftermarket.  Examine areas of your selling process that can be shifted to self-service online.

Watch Amazon Like a Hawk

It’s no secret that Amazon is revolutionizing B2B e-commerce. It continues to disrupt, experimenting with private-label products in categories like MRO and office supplies, thus going into direct competition with their sellers. Amazon also has introduced Dash Smart Shelf, an automatic replenishment system for office supplies. Businesses who chose to sell at Amazon Business are in for a roller coaster ride.

The opportunity is huge, and so are the challenges.  So let’s get busy cracking this new nut.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

8 B2B Marketing Resources: Blogs, Research, and Thought Leaders

People ask me all the time what they should be reading to keep up on B2B marketing. Naturally, I have my favorite sites, since I need to keep up myself. So, here are my top B2B marketing resources — including how-to, research insights, prognostications, and opinions from knowledgeable experts

People ask me all the time what they should be reading to keep up on B2B marketing. Naturally, I have my favorite sites, since I need to keep up myself. So, here are my top B2B marketing resources — including how-to, research insights, prognostications, and opinions from knowledgeable experts. Sign up, follow, and enjoy.

  1. B2BMarketing.net: Some people say that the UK marketers are way ahead of the US, because their smaller universe means they have to work harder. This publisher’s capabilities would certainly support that argument. Find their excellent content, plus webinars and events, and check out their first US event in Chicago in May.
  2. Content Marketing Institute: Joe Pulizzi’s genius was to see the value of content marketing long before everyone else. He built an organization that explains the theory and practice, and its first examples were in business markets. This is the go-to place for research and how-to.
  3. Demand Gen Report: A treasure trove of white papers, research reports, articles, videos, and how-to guides on every imaginable B2B marketing topic. Kudos to founder Andrew Gaffney for this resource!
  4. Fusion Marketing Partners: Whitepapers, ebooks, and articles from Christopher Ryan, who really knows his stuff and provides actionable ideas and guidance. And if you don’t want to take the time to read his material, you can just hire him to get your job done.
  5. Heinz Marketing: Matt Heinz has built a successful demand gen agency on the shoulders of great content. Here you’ll find abundant books and guides. But what’s extra special is his Sales Pipeline Radio show, and the newly available Sales Pipeline Velocity Calculator. Sure to impress your friends.
  6. MarketingProfs:This website’s heart is in B2B. Within its two-tier free and paid membership system, you’ll find a rich array of articles, webinars, templates, research reports, training courses, and events. Plus, there’s a Know-How Exchange forum where you can get your questions answered by experts.
  7. Ruthless B-to-B Marketing: Of course, I can’t leave out my monthly blog articles on various B2B marketing topics. Find them first at Biznology. I welcome your feedback.
  8. Spear Marketing: Howard J. Sewell started out in sales, so it’s no surprise that as an agency head, his understanding of lead gen is superb. I’m an admiring subscriber to his blog The Point, where the tips are immediately applicable to your campaigns.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

The 10 Most Fascinating People in B2B Marketing in 2019

I’m back with my roundup of brilliant B2B marketers whom I’ve encountered this year. With a tip of the hat to those on my previous lists, it is my pleasure to introduce these fascinating colleagues to you. Our B2B marketing field has thrived in recent decades.

I’m back with my roundup of brilliant B2B marketers whom I’ve encountered this year. With a tip of the hat to those on my lists last year, and in 2017, 2016, and 2015, it is my pleasure to introduce these fascinating colleagues to you. Our B2B marketing field has thrived in recent decades, as new technologies and strategies emerged to help us reach target audiences and generate sales conversations.

But now, as we enter a new decade where challenges loom — data privacy, ad fraud, fake posts, ever-longer sales cycles — we need all of the talent we can get.

  1. Nancy Harhut is the Energizer Bunny of B2B copywriting. After a long career at Boston-area agencies, she has formed her own firm, and is creating bang-up campaigns for clients based on new insights from behavioral science. Catch her informative keynotes at B2B marketing conferences here and abroad.
  2. Valerie Bowling co-founded The Conference Forum to serve the pharmaceutical clinical-trials industry. With programs on such cutting-edge fields as immuno-oncology and “patients as partners,” she’s responsible not only for recruiting top-notch industry speakers, but also for driving attendance. As such, Bowling is an avid follower of B2B marketing methods, to fill the seats and keep attendees coming year after year.
  3. Sean Campbell is CEO of Cascade Insights, a Portland, Ore.-based tech market research firm. On the content side, Campbell hosts the “B2B Revealed” podcast, where I was a recent guest. It was the best interview I’ve ever had. He was prepared — actually read my book! He asked thoughtful, important questions, but also managed to steer the interview into a real conversation. Thanks, Sean, for a great experience.
  4. Elle Woulfe, VP of growth marketing at the product design platform InVision, is one of the most coherent thought leaders in the B2B realm. Find wisdom in her article about new ways to think about lead qualification and her three keys to sales and marketing alignment.
  5. I’ve known Chris Jeffers for years, but 2019 saw his major move. Jeffers founded NetFactor, the first service to automate B2B visitor IP address identification, in 2003. In 2017, he sold the company to Bombora, and decided to “retire.” All eyes are on his next step. I know he’ll come up with a winner.
  6. Vinay Mehendi is one of those rare data scientists who easily bridges to the business world. His company, amusingly named OceanFrogs, offers a wide range of B2B data services, like data enrichment and hygiene, persona development, technographic data, and lookalike modeling. But he has also developed some interesting B2B data innovations, like target account prioritization models, partner prospecting services, and a way to identify the “champion” in your target account buying group.
  7. I have to laugh when I run across a B2B sales executive with a stand-up comedy side gig. Check out Vincent Pietrafesa, Stirista’s intrepid VP of B2B products by day, who moonlights as Vincent James at comedy spots in the NY area. Who said B2B couldn’t be funny?
  8. I am a big fan of Jill Konrath, a sales expert who really gets B2B marketing. Having reconnected with her this year to get help crafting cold prospecting emails, I benefited from her superb Prospecting Tool Kit. She knows what she’s talking about, explains things clearly and tells the truth: “What percent of your prospects want to spend time with a salesperson? Zero.”
  9. When I worked at IBM in the 1990s, I noticed that our Canadian colleagues were way ahead in B2B marketing strategy and execution. So I am not surprised to see the same today in marketing services and technology. One example is Mike Couch, Toronto-based martech systems integrator whose agency helps firms like Bloomberg and ADP make their new purchases hum. When asked who should own the martech stack: marketing, sales or IT, Mike says the answer is “your customer.” Indeed.
  10. Bernice Grossman is one of the early lights in B2B data management, who saw long before most the essential value of complete, clean, and well-organized customer information to the success of B2B marketers everywhere. I was honored to partner with her on a series of research reports on B2B data-driven marketing over the years. After 37 years running DMRS Group, she holds the fascinating record.

Here’s to another great year in B2B marketing. Happy new decade to all!

 

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Where Is B2B Marketing Headed in 2020? 7 Predictions

Forecasting the future is a dangerous but irresistible practice for observers like myself. So let me plunge ahead with seven bets on likely new developments in the world of B2B marketing.

Forecasting the future is a dangerous but irresistible practice for observers like myself. So let me plunge ahead with seven bets on likely new developments in the world of B2B marketing.

Just don’t look at my predictions from last year to check my record for accuracy, please.

“My crystal ball is on back order,” as B2B database expert Bernice Grossman is fond of saying.

This year, my predictions range from retention to robots. I welcome your feedback!

A Move From the ‘Funnel’ to the ‘Relationship’

B2B marketers are expanding their roles from just cranking out lead generation campaigns to stepping in as managers of the prospect and customer relationship, in partnership with their sales counterparts. As business buying becomes more complex, with larger buying groups and longer buy cycles, marketers will continue to embrace the contributions they can make in market coverage, sales enablement, and ABM.

Voice Search Takes Hold in B2B Buying, for Real

Business buyers are already using their Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant (“Hey, Google!”), and Cortana devices to identify potential vendors. And CPQ technology that enables configure/price/quote on more complex products is coming up quickly. So, the table is set. We marketers need to get ready by adding structured data, beefing up our FAQs, and mobile-enabling our websites to get the best advantage.

Messaging Apps Go Enterprise

As messaging app usage soars, leading providers Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) offer business solutions. The top application, so far, is customer service to solve problems quickly. But marketers are dipping their toes into product introductions, company news, promotions, and even purchasing with business customers. Of course, the granddaddy of business messaging, LinkedIn, is still the place to test the waters with these new channels.

Employee Advocacy Becomes Mainstream

Companies are realizing that they can harness their employees for customer acquisition, customer development, and HR recruitment.

Typical tactics:

  • Encourage employees to share company posts on social media.
  • Ask employees to recommend your company and its products to their friends and colleagues.
  • Provide them with logo merchandises to use and wear.

Here are some tips for how to get started.

Content Creation by Robots

It’s here. Still mostly in data-heavy fields like financial services. But as artificial intelligence tools improve, certain auto-generated copy applications are bound to follow. My guess is that some types of B2B social media posts are ripe for automation. But while I’m on the subject, let me refer you to Janneke Ritchie, who explains how robots will soon be taking on B2B tasks in areas like inside sales, customer service, and marketing operations. Yikes.

GDPR, CCPA Will Be Clarified for B2B

This is my fervent hope, anyway. Most enterprises have taken significant steps toward GDPR compliance, and are now investigating what needs to be done in the face of Jan. 1’s California Consumer Privacy Act. But what we really need is some action by regulators that will help us understand how regulatory concerns really apply to B2B vs. consumer marketing. And we also need action at the federal level here in the U.S., to simplify the current mishmash of state-level privacy legislation that is in the works.

B2B Marketers Embrace Current-Customer Marketing

Another fervent hope, but one that seems to be trending in the right direction. The new push is coming from the world of SaaS, where marketers realize that real profitability comes from attention to renewals, and defection prevention — the meat and potatoes of subscription marketing. For years, we’ve seen lead generation named as the top goal of B2B marketers, and typically a mere 15% of marketing budgets being devoted to retention activities. But when I hear software executives preaching about retention marketing, I think my hope may be justified. Customer penetration and expansion is a key source of profitable growth.

 

Happy 2020 to us all.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

15 Must-Attend B2B Marketing Conferences for 2020

The B2B marketing conference scene continues to flourish since I did my last roundup a year ago. I hope I am not jinxing the trend by commenting on how top events thrive and new events arrive. Here’s a lineup of top-quality conferences to add to your 2020 calendar.

The B2B marketing conference scene continues to flourish since I did my last roundup a year ago. I hope I am not jinxing the trend by commenting on how top events thrive and new events arrive. Here’s a lineup of top-quality conferences to add to your 2020 calendar. A treasure trove of strategy, innovation, ABM, martech, data, AI, e-commerce, social media — the works.

• February 24-26, Scottsdale, B2B Marketing Exchange

The real deal. Catch great speakers like Lee Odden, Pam Didner, and Howard J. Sewell.

• March 17-18, San Francisco, The ABM Innovation Summit

Organized by Demandbase, at Pier 27, and followed by certification courses on Day 2 at the Hyatt Regency.

• March 29-April 2, Las Vegas, Adobe Summit

Perhaps the largest of them all, as Adobe has built a B2B martech powerhouse. Featuring Mindy Kahling, an apparent new fan of B2B marketers — having also appeared at Content Marketing World in 2019.

• April 15-17, San Jose, Martech West

See Scott Brinker’s persuasive video call for speakers. Martech East runs in Boston, September 6-8.

• April 20-22, Chicago, B2B Online

E-commerce and digital marketing for manufacturers and distributors. Attracts attendees from around the world.

• April 23-24, San Francisco, TOPO Summit

Where sales and marketing teams learn to break down barriers and work together. Organized by thought leader Craig Rosenberg.

• May 3-6, Austin, Sirius Decisions 2020 Summit

A strong event, made even stronger after Sirius’s purchase by Forrester.

• May 12-14, Scottsdale, ANA BMA Masters of Marketing Conference

The ANA is moving its reincarnated BMA conference from Chicago this year.

• May 27-28, Chicago, B2B Marketing Ignite USA 2020

At last, the event we’ve been waiting for. The UK’s B2B Marketing.net brings its successful annual conference to our shores. If you’re not already a member of its US online community, I suggest you sign up now.

• August 10-12, Boston, B2B Sales and Marketing Exchange

A fruitful merger of three smaller B2B conferences, DemandGen Summit, FlipMyFunnel, and REVTalks, launched in 2019.

• August 19-20, Singapore, B2B Marketing Leaders Forum Asia 2020

THE Asian event for B2B marketers, if you can stand the idea of Singapore in August. Part of an Australian organization with additional conferences in Sydney (May 20-21, 2020) and Melbourne.

• September 16-18, Boston, Connect to Convert

A division of the giant LeadsCon, with a solid B2B marketing track.

• October 7-8, Chicago, reach 2020

Launched in 2019 by G2Crowd, this one-day conference is all about getting the most value from B2B ratings and reviews sites.

• October 13-16, Cleveland, Content Marketing World

Still growing, still thriving.

• November 3-6, San Francisco. MarketingProfs B2B Forum

The B2B Forum is on the move again, after years in Boston and a swing by DC in 2019.

 

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

5 Big Changes in B2B Buying Behavior

If you’re a B2B marketer — especially a services provider — your environment is about to be upended. Customers are changing, and so are the ways they buy. I’ve been struck recently by five glaring developments in business buying behavior that you need to know about.

If you’re a B2B marketer — especially a services provider — your environment is about to be upended. Customers are changing, and so are the ways they buy. I’ve been struck recently by five glaring developments in business buying behavior that you need to know about.

And once you know, you must consider how to adapt and, better yet, turn the changes to your advantage. Consider these.

The Arrival of Millennials in Business Buying Positions

These 30-somethings are rapidly migrating from researcher and specifier into decision-making roles. I’ve written about this before, offering ideas for how marketers can cope. But I also see this development as part of a larger trend that has deep implications for how we need to be selling and marketing today.

Use of Ratings and Reviews Sites in B2B

Comparison sites in the mold of TripAdvisor and Yelp have entered the B2B buying process; especially in crowded categories, like software and services. You’ll find ratings sites like TrustRadius, Capterra (now owned by Gartner), Clutch.co and G2Crowd, where users leave product reviews — and sellers quake in their boots. Here are some tips for how marketers can take advantage of this new channel.

Expanded Customer Requirements for Compliance

Long prevalent in government buying, companies of all sizes are increasing their requirements of vendors in areas such as sustainability, diversity, and — for manufacturers in such categories as apparel — wages, working conditions, and safety. Christine Crandell brought this to my attention recently, with examples like Marriott embracing the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals 2030 as a source of competitive differentiation, and how event planners are routinely making venue carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions an evaluating criterion in property selection.

Buyers Are Bringing Their Consumer Expectations With Them to Work

They want fast, personalized service, pricing transparency, ease of use, a human face, seamless integration across contact channels, and mobile access. We know this, but are we stepping up?

Enterprise Buying Platforms Mature

B2B buying has long been enabled by EDI, supplier exchanges, and e-procurement. But the pace is accelerating — fast. A new entrant is Globality’s platform that helps large enterprises buy services. According to Kathy Chin Makranyi, head of corporate marketing, Globality’s founders recognized that services procurement is inefficient, and ripe for change. So, they set up an AI-enabled platform that manages the entire buying process, enabling buyers to write the RFP, identify a short list of candidates — even inviting incumbents to participate, conduct the bidding process, hire for and manage the project, and handle the billing. Globality has vetted and recruited over 17,000 services providers to the platform, giving enterprises access to entirely new potential vendors. And the platform saves both time and money in managing the competitive bidding process.

“It’s a marketplace between the global 500 and a network of worldwide providers. The big services firms, the McKinseys, KPMGs, and Accentures will play, too, because it makes their sales cycles faster and easier. If you go with the incumbent, you’ve confirmed they are the best choice. Sourcing team[s] can learn and validate their work. And a provider who lost can find out ways to improve next time,” explains Makranyi.

Calling all consultants, accountants, lawyers, agencies — here’s your chance to compete on a level playing field for enterprise accounts.

 

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.